We could get political. We could connect it to the appalling outrage of the Windrush Generation
which is smouldering. We could still connect it to the charred memorial of Grenfell Tower which still stands as incriminating evidence of deep rooted discrimination.
Some would say Carnival
is happening despite the above and other political, social and civic challenges and catastrophes.
They miss the point. Carnival happens, not despite, but because of, these issues.
You see. Carnival is London at its dignified, resourceful, tolerant, friendly, life-loving, empathetic, compassionate best.
Bad weather, bad press and the occasional bit of bad form have all tried to stop the annual riot of colour, sound, flavour, fragrance and all round smiles that take over, and have done since 1966, West London every August Bank Holiday.
Music is central to Carnival. This is Sound System Capital. Rampage
, Channel One
. The sound system is an icon of Afro-Caribbean culture. Gravity defying towers of speakers balanced on beer crate architecture. The selector as street royalty. You will hear sweet licks of old school reggae, lovers rock, knee shake dub bombs, Hip Hop, Dancehall. Walk around. Take it in. The air (hopefully warm and dry) will be scented with rum, herb and jerk chicken.
Choose your day. Purists insist that Sunday is for family. Monday is for the seasoned Don. Monday is when Carnival sharpens up, leaves the kids with Nan and gets down to the serious business. Under the Westway. The overhead structure turns the street into an echo chamber. By two in the afternoon you cannot move. Don’t try. Just go with it. Move to whoever is playing. You will hear at least three records for the first time which will become lifetime favourites. That’s what Carnival does.
We don’t make rules but offer hints. Don’t try and drive. Allow a lot of time. Public transport pretty much gives up for a couple of days. Be sensible. Pace yourself. Take cash but not more than you will need. Keep an eye on your mates. Be polite. Respectful but not creepy. You know?
Try to remember the facts. The stats. The bad stuff that the racist media love to shout about is almost non existent when contextualized with the millions of people who have flocked, rocked, wobbled and danced through these streets in the last 52 years.
Carnival is an unstoppable gesture of defiance, happiness and positivity. A city and it’s cultures saying “OK. Everything ain’t perfect, it probably never will be but it’s Summer, there is food to be eaten, Red Stripe, Dragon and Rum to be drunk, good music to be danced to and friends to hang with so, if you don’t mind, we need to enjoy ourselves”
It is THE weekend when East London throws it’s hand in and admits “OK, West, you got moves, you win this one”
Who would argue? Certainly not us. We will be busy, slightly glassy eyed, a bit sunburned but grinning somewhere between Portobello and Ladbroke Grove. We will not be wearing ear plugs, dread wigs or Morrissey T shirts. We will drop top dollar for a busted up Red Stripe that explodes on opening, some jerk meat scraped off a red hot hub-cap and a cob of corn that causes blisters on the inside of our mouth. And we would not be anywhere else. You know?
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